Basotho demand accountability

Basotho demand accountability

MASERU – A RECENT survey by Afrobarometer shows that 57 percent of Basotho want the government to be accountable to the people even if that limits its efficiency.
Afrobarometer is a Pan-African, non-partisan research network that conducts public attitude surveys on democracy, governance, economic conditions, and related issues in African countries.
A total of 1 200 Basotho were interviewed in December last year.

The survey says even though the majority of Basotho want a government that is accountable to the people, they still prefer a government “that can get things done”.
The survey also revealed that 62 percent of the respondents “support limits on executive power”.
“Majorities say the Prime Minister should be accountable to Parliament (62 percent) and must always obey laws and the courts (86 percent),” the report says.
More than half of citizens say that in practice, the Prime Minister rarely or never ignores parliament and the courts.

The Afrobarometer team was led by Advision Lesotho and interviewed 1 200 adult Basotho in December 2017.
The findings also show that 62 percent also favour limiting the Prime Minister to a maximum of two terms in office.
Lesotho currently does not have term limits for the Prime Minister.

Former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, for instance, was at the helm of the country from 1997 until he lost power in 2012. He however briefly bounced back again in 2015 until he was ousted again in June 2017. “Citizens widely support limits on executive powers and see voters and Parliament as responsible for holding the Prime Minister accountable,” the survey says.
It also says the majority of Basotho want average citizens to have access to information held by public officials.
They however acknowledge that getting such information may not be easy.

A majority of Basotho say that information held by public officials should also be accessible to the public and about four in 10 believe they would have trouble obtaining information about development plans and school budgets.
In terms of accountable versus efficient government, Afrobarometer findings show that 57 percent of Basotho say it is more important that the government be accountable to the people than to “get things done”, a modest decrease from 62 percent in 2014.

Four in 10 disagree, arguing that having an efficient government is more important, even if citizens “have no influence over what it does.”
Parliamentary power to hold the executive accountable is also endorsed by the majority at 62 percent who agree that “Parliament should ensure that the Prime Minister explains to it on a regular basis how his government spends taxpayers’ money,” the findings show.
This continues an upward trend in public support for executive accountability to parliament, from about four in 10 in 2008 and 2012.
The survey has also revealed that the proportion of respondents who say the Prime Minister should not have to “waste his time justifying his actions” to parliament slumped from about 50 percent in 2014 to the current 36 percent.

In practice, a majority (58 percent) of Basotho say the Prime Minister “never” or “rarely” ignores parliament, also an increase from 50 percent in 2014.
On the other hand, the proportion of respondents who say the Prime Minister “often” or “always” ignores parliament also increased to 22 percent while the proportion of “Don’t know” responses declined from 37 percent to 21 percent.

Judicial oversight and controls are also important checks on executive powers in a democracy, Afrobarometer says.
Almost nine out of 10 Basotho (86 percent) share the view that the Prime Minister must always obey the laws and courts, even if he thinks they are wrong.
This represents a 20 percent point increase from 66 percent in 2014.
Conversely, the findings indicate that the share of Basotho who feel that the Prime Minister as the elected leader of the country, should not be bound by laws and courts dropped by about half, to 12 percent.

When asked how often the Prime Minister in fact ignores the courts and laws, a slim majority, 54 percent, of Basotho say he “never” or “rarely” does.
On the issue of transparency, the Afrobarometer says citizens need information if they are to hold their political leaders accountable.
Transparency is thus a prerequisite for accountability, Afrobarometer says.

57 percent of Basotho demand transparency, asserting that information held by public authorities should be shared with the public.
One in three, believes instead that such information should be only for the use of government officials.
Afrobarometer says better educated respondents are more likely than their less-educated counterparts to want such information shared with the public: 60 percent among those with secondary or post- secondary education, compared to 49 percent of those with no formal education.

Among 26 African countries surveyed by Afrobarometer, Lesotho is near the average of 54 percent who say the public should have access to such information, though countries vary widely in their views, from 36 percent of Ivoirians to 74 percent of Malawians.
Another aspect of accountability is communication, as when the citizens let their leaders know what they think and expect.

Only one in 10 (11 percent) say they contacted a Member of Parliament at least once during the previous year to discuss an important problem or share their views.
Contact was somewhat more frequent with government officials (16 percent) and political party officials (19 percent).
About one-third (32 percent) of respondents say they contacted a community councillor. The most frequent contact was with traditional leaders (52 percent) and religious leaders (38 percent).
As for taking action to express dissatisfaction with the government, about three in 10 respondents (28 percent) say “they joined others in their community to request action from the government” once or twice, several times or often during the last year.

“One in five (19 percent) say they contacted a government official to ask for help or make a complaint, while fewer say they contacted the media (16 percent), participated in a demonstration or protest march (15 percent) or refused to pay a tax or fee to the government (5 percent).

Majara Molupe

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